Fresh from their success with Tony Hancock, writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson originally planned Steptoe and Son
as a one-off for the BBCs Comedy Playhouse. It was quickly turned into a series, originally broadcast in 1962, and the six episodes here (including the Comedy Playhouse "pilot") contain all the classic ingredients that were to keep the show on British TV screens until 1974. Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell are the father and son rag and bone men, constantly bickering, constantly at each others throats. Corbetts Harold harbours ridiculous bourgeois aspirations, hoping to impress the "birds" with asparagus soup or his wine cellar, which has been painstakingly collected by draining the dregs of empty bottles. But all his efforts at social improvement are in vain, thanks to the mean-spirited efforts of his father Albert, who glories in his sons contemptuous "dirty old man" tag, and who is content with life exactly as it is in the cast-off paradise of their ramshackle junk-filled boneyard.
The show was groundbreaking at the time, depicting working-class people in light comedy instead of serious social drama as was the norm. It also differed significantly from Hancocks Half Hour and other sitcoms, which featured comedians effectively playing themselves: Brambell and Corbett were real actors whose marvellous chemistry helped ensure the shows longevity. In our modern throwaway culture, Steptoe and Son provides a window into a bygone era, when men with horses and carts routinely patrolled the streets recycling junk, without the need for government incentives or environmental pressure.
On the DVD: Steptoe and Son, Series 1 has six episodes on one disc. The black and white picture shows its age quite badly, and the mono sound is equally fuzzy in places. There are no extras, which is a shame, as Galton and Simpson could surely have provided an illuminating commentary track. --Mark Walker
All six episodes from the first season of the classic comedy series in which a father and son run a junkyard business. In the pilot episode, 'The Offer', Harold (Harry H Corbett) returns home from work one day to reveal that he has had a lucrative business offer. In 'The Bird', Albert (Wilfrid Brambell) suspects that Harold is seeing a girl. In 'The Piano', Harold is hired to collect a piano from a large block of flats. 'The Economist' sees Harold planning to buy big after reading 'Economic Planning in a Capitalist Society', resulting in the purchase of 4000 sets of false teeth. In 'The Diploma', Harold quits the rag and bone trade in anticipation of the Channel Tunnel (apparently there will be a glut of foreigners ready to strip England of its junk), and takes a diploma as a TV repair man. Finally, in 'The Holiday', Harold wants to take a break on the Continent - rather than Mrs Clifford's in Bognor Regis.